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Ananda Amstadter

Assistant Professor
Department of Psychiatry

Tel: 804 828 8129
Fax: 804 828 1471
Email:
abamstadter@vcu.edu
P.O. Box:
980126
VIPBG
Biotech 1-118

My program of research broadly focuses on understanding factors that effect post-trauma trajectory of symptoms among individuals exposed to a variety of potentially traumatic events (e.g., disasters, combat exposure, interpersonal violence). To that end, most of my research focuses on the identification of risk and resiliency factors, biologic and psychosocial in nature, for traumatic-stress related conditions, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorders, and depression. My translational program of research weds biological substrates (e.g., molecular genetics, neuroendocrine reactivity) with behavioral outcomes (e.g., mental health phenotypes, distress tolerance, risk taking propensity) through use of a variety of research methodologies. My current program of research has three main studies for which research opportunities for trainees exist. First, I am about to begin data collection for a NIAAA-funded clinical laboratory study of examining the role of combat exposure and PTSD status on stress reactivity and subsequent drinking behavior in emerging adults. This study will allow us to answer many important questions. For example, does acute stress promote greater drinking in those who have had combat trauma exposure in comparison to those without a combat trauma history? What role do genetic differences and distress tolerance play in the relationship between traumatic event exposure, subsequent stress, and drinking? Second, I also recently obtained funding to add genetic sampling to a large NIMH-funded longitudinal, web-based epidemiological assessment and intervention study of 3,000 disaster-affected families that I am collaborating on with colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina. The purpose of this study is to examine the relation between genetic variants and adolescent PTSD. This study also includes a thorough measurement of individual level psychosocial variables (e.g., history of exposure to traumatic events, social support, family cohesion) and social level variables (e.g., concentrated disadvantage, income distribution, residential segregation, quality of the environment, neighborhood level crime rate) that are likely to influence PTSD symptoms. Therefore, we have the ability to examine the ways in which genes and environment may interact to influence risk. Lastly, in collaboration with colleagues from University of Maryland College Park and Yale, we have an ongoing study of the development of risk taking behaviors in a community sample of ~500 youth from the Baltimore area who will be followed through their early twenties. In this longitudinal study we are examining the role of genetic, personality, and environmental variables on risk taking behaviors. This study also includes phenotypes of depression and anxiety, and opportunities to examine genetic and environmental influences on the trajectory of those symptoms over time also exist.

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